Lincoln Riley’s move to USC sent Oklahoma into their first real head coaching search since 1998.
On Monday, athletic director Joe Castiglione said people “would never believe” some of the names who have reached out expressing interest in taking the job, and that the Sooners will leave no stone unturned searching for the right fit for the program.
Though Castiglione declined to name any names or even suggest if he was looking at a current coordinator or current head coach, names continue to circulate and be connected to the job.
Anyone in the coaching profession with ties to OU seems to be connected to the job, and current Tennessee head coach and OU’s last National Champion quarterback Josh Heupel is no different.
Heupel returned to Oklahoma after his playing career to serve on the coaching staff, working his way up to offensive coordinator before being let go after the Sooners’ disastrous 2014 campaign.
But Heupel seems more than content at Tennessee, and he said he’s looking forward to coaching the Volunteers next season during a radio interview on Monday.
“We absolutely love Tennessee and believe what we are building here and can't be happier and more excited about what we are going to do next year and in the coming years," Heupel said during a Monday interview 99.1 FM The Sports Animal in Knoxville.
Heupel said he’s not surprised his name is coming up for the job, but he’s more than happy to be at the center of the tradition at Tennessee.
“As you build a successful program with your staff and players, certainly, your name has an opportunity to come up for different openings,” Heupel said. “Just for myself and my family, we absolutely love Knoxville, and we came to Tennessee because of the power of the T.
“… It is a program that is top-ten in the history of college football in wins, first-round draft picks and have been through some uncertainty in recent times, but we love being in Knoxville. That is home for us… I know we are building a championship-caliber football team and program, and I am excited to continue on that venture with our current players and staff."
In his first year on the job in Knoxville, Heupel has the Volunteers playing good football despite the mess he took over in the offseason. This year, Tennessee finished 7-5, and Heupel’s offense is ranked No. 9 in the country in scoring offense.
Heupel returning to Norman always seemed to be a long shot, however, as there is believed to be a rift between the coach and Oklahoma after his dismissal in 2014.
But in OU’s first true head coaching search in the height of the internet era, the rumors will continue to swirl until Castiglione is standing at the podium and announcing Oklahoma’s next head coach.
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